There is nothing more important in poker than playing in position. Well, except for the cards you have been dealt.
Playing in position means to act last in a given hand. For instance, having the dealer button means you have position on every single player on the table because you are the last player to act. Here are a few rules to get you started with positional play.
1. Play in position
Having position on your opponents gives you loads of advantages. As soon as it is your turn, you have all the information available. To be precise, you have more information than your opponents which will lead to you making better decisions than them.
One very important aspect here is, that playing in position greatly simplifies your decision making. If you play out of position, there are a lot of variables that you have to consider while planning your move: “Is my opponent likely to bet?”, “What will the bet size be?”, “Will he call if I bet?” and so on. On the other hand, if you play in position, all of these questions have already been answered. The only thing you have left to do is to lean back comfortably and give yourself a brief overview of your available options.
Consider this: Your opponent asked himself the same questions and might have guessed wrong on how you will react. This gives you a huge advantage further down the hand because your opponent slowly manoeuvres himself into a bad position. You, on the other hand, can capitalize on this greatly.
It also greatly enhances your ability to learn new skills like pot control or bet sizing in the future. These are way easier to pick up in combination with positional play.
2. Be very careful while playing from the blinds
Playing from the blinds is the worst. You have to act before every single player as soon as the flop hits. The big disadvantage here is that you simply don’t know what your enemies are up to. The only thing you can do in this position is to guess. And guessing does not get you very far in poker.
Statistically seen, playing from the blinds is the biggest leak for many players. They have more incentive to play the hand because they are invested in it. The though process is like this: “Well, I already put my big blind into this hand. Might as well play it”. That is not what these players should focus on though. By playing from the blinds, you are playing out of position. And playing out of position looses you money.
There are a few hands that can be played quite profitably from the blinds. If you have a pocket pair and want to know whether it is worth it trying to mine a set, the blinds are the place to be. You can see how many players entered the pot, what the pot size is and are already invested in the hand. If you hit your set on the flop, it’s very likely that you have the best hand. Playing out of position is not that bad in this case.
3. Tighten up in the early positions
Especially new poker players play way too many hands. More importantly, they play way too many hands from the early positions. Playing a mediocre hand from an early position can put you in a really bad place and you should avoid it at all cost.
If you have a hand like AJ in the first seat, there is a high chance that this is not the best hand. Additionally, every single player will have position on you. This will lead to a lot of decision making further into the hand. What if you get raised? What if you suddenly have four players invested on the flop? What if you miss your flop? What if you hit your flop? Did anyone else hit the flop? All of these questions can be avoided by playing only the very best hands out of position.
4. Look for the “Jesus seat”
The place that has position on a bad or very aggressive player is know as the “Jesus Seat”. Why? Because you are in complete control over the faith of that player. You decide whether to give him a free flop or not. You control the bet size. You can force him into the most uncomfortable positions simply because you have position on him.
Having position on a bad player can be more profitable than you think. With the right hands, you can easily get his entire stack in a single session. Playing against very aggressive players usually pays off as well. They are likely to bet a lot into you. By having a better hand and position on him, you can literally just watch the chips flowing into your direction.
Playing in position is absolutely mandatory if you strive to be a better poker player. In fact, it should be the first thing to learn in your poker career. Trust us, it will pay off dividends down the road. You might be tempted to play that KQ in first position, but should you actually do it? This is the question you should be asking yourself in the future.
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